The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

10 ways to tackle coronavocab: #2 Trending terms

As well as the new coinages that I looked at in my first post, lots of existing words and phrases have suddenly become used way more frequently than before.  Many of these have become part of our everyday usage over the past few months but might not be familiar to learners. 

Some dramatic surges in usage (from Timestamped JSI web corpus)

Some of the newly-popular items may wane in frequency as the pandemic subsides (quarantine, isolation), others though are generally useful for learners to have as part of their vocabulary in other contexts (household, gathering, distance). Remember to choose just a few items that you think will be most appropriate for your students and think about exploring collocations and patterns as well as just the words themselves.

A few examples in context:

The three people who tested positive will go into a 14-day quarantine at home.
We were able to quarantine people very quickly and the outbreak was quite quickly contained.
Alice is currently isolating in her flat with her partner Tim.
If you are in isolation, you cannot go to public places, even if it is for essential items.
We are living in unprecedented times.
Businesses will need to provide increased hand sanitization* for customers.
Public health experts have emphasized the importance of frequent hand washing.
You can only exercise outdoors on your own or with members of the same household.
Travel control is very important to prevent the spread of infection.
We've put signs out asking people to keep their distance.
Any gathering must be limited to a maximum of 10 people in compliance with social distancing guidelines.

*Can be spelled -iz- or -is-

  • Find images of signs or instructions featuring some of these words (feel free to reuse the images below, all taken by me out and about in Bristol) – Where would you see these? What are people being asked to do? Have students seen similar signs in their language?

  • Lots of the words in this group are being commonly used in both their verb and noun forms, some without a change of form (quarantine, distance), many in different forms (isolate/isolation, comply with/compliance, sanitize/sanitizer/sanitization, gather/gathering, prevent/prevention) – these are ripe for some work on typical noun endings and/or some sentence transformations. And of course, the nouns will need appropriate collocations too.
Complete the sentences with the correct verb or noun form of the word:
a. Alice is currently ______ in her flat with her partner Tim.

b. If you are in ______, you cannot go to public places, even if it is for essential items.

Rewrite the sentence using the noun form of the underlined verb. 
We were able to quarantine people very quickly.
We were able to _________________________. 
  • Especially with students from European language backgrounds, there may be scope for comparing similar and different terms from their L1. For example, several languages have been using a cognate of confinement to describe what’s been called lockdown or isolation in the UK (confinement in French, confinamiento in Spanish, confinamento in Italian). The word confinement does, of course, exist in English with a similar meaning, but hasn’t been widely used in the context of the pandemic.

For more ideas and activities for teaching vocab generally, take a look at ETpedia Vocabulary

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